Monday, June 25, 2018

Draft weekend surprises

Well, that didn’t turn out the way we expected.

Of course, draft weekend never does. Every year, the hockey world churns out weeks of speculation over who’ll go where and what kind of deals will be struck. And every year we end up having at least a few curves thrown our way.

But not all surprises are created equal. So today, let’s sort through the weekend that was by breaking out the Surprise Scale. We’ll start with the key moments that played out exactly the way we all figured they would, and work our way down to the ones that left us scratching our heads.

The Sabres take Rasmus Dahlin: 0/100

Some drafts have all sorts of suspense and intrigue around the first-overall pick. This was not one of those drafts.

With only one sure-fire franchise player on the board, the Sabres weren’t facing an especially difficult choice. We didn’t even get the usual round of “The pick might be in play” rumours. Just a simple, straightforward choice of the best player available.

Sometimes simple and straightforward is the way to go, and after years of misery and instability in Buffalo, boring probably suits this organization just fine. Dahlin should be great, and him feeding long breakout passes to Jack Eichel for the next decade or so should be all sorts of fun.

The only surprise here was that nobody from the league ran up to the podium to interrupt Jason Botterill, explain that they’d just discovered that there had been a mistake during the lottery, and award the first-overall pick to someone else. You had to figure Sabres fans were at least half-expecting it.

The Hurricanes take Andrei Svechnikov: 3/100

The other pick that we all pretty much knew in advance. The only reason we’ll bump this up a few points on the surprise scale is that you never know when Tom Dundon is going to do something unusual. He did, but it was just having his daughter announce the pick, which was fine.

Now we find out if this is one of those drafts where nobody remembers No. 2. Fans of the franchise are probably hoping so.

Not ranked: Gary Bettman gets booed

Occasionally, we see something that doesn’t even register on the surprise scale at all. That’s the case with the reception Bettman got on Friday from the fans in Dallas, who pretty much booed him all night long. It’s a scene that’s played out plenty of times before. The commissioner arrives, makes the same old “I do appreciate your enthusiastic welcome” joke he makes every time, a handful of fans and media fawn over how he’s having fun with the vitriol, and then Bettman gets so flustered he can barely make it through the rest of whatever he’s supposed to be doing.

This year, the reception came with some controversy, as Bettman’s initial appearance was part of a tribute to the Humboldt Broncos and the presentation of the E.J. McGuire Award. That led Bettman to make the reasonable request that fans hold off on the boos, which they mostly did.

All in all, the situation was handled about as well as possible, and the Humboldt tribute was beautifully done. Could it have been introduced just as well by someone that hockey fans haven’t spent decades being trained to have a visceral reaction to? Probably, but the league made its choice, and the results were predictable.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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